There’s no question that the
dictatorship running North Korea is one of the more dangerous — and nuttier — in the world. It’s headed by the Kim dynasty, something that wasn’t supposed to happen under the “classless” ideology of
communism. In recent days current dictator Kim Jong Ill has been acting up, as he does periodically.
The navies of the United States and
democratic South Korea have recently been holding exercises in the Sea of Japan, east of the Korean peninsula. Kim blustered he would get “physical” with the Allied navies. This may have been a reference to an alleged attack by North Korea in May that sank a South Korean warship (although a July 23 Los Angeles Times story reported that some South Korean officials have doubts the ship was sunk by North Korea).
In South Korea for the beginning of the exercises, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced, “We will demonstrate once again through our military exercises that the U.S. stands in firm support of the defense of South Korea.”
But South Korea really doesn’t need our help. This is no longer the impoverished
country depicted in the popular TV show “M.A.S.H.” South Korea is an economic
powerhouse, as one can see by the Kia and Hyundai cars common on American roads and the LG and Samsung TVs and appliances in our homes and cell phones held in our hands.
“South Korea’s economy is 30 times the size of North Korea’s,” said Ivan Eland, senior
fellow and the director of the Center for Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute. “By contrast, North Koreans are starving. The United States is long overdue for withdrawing from Korea.” He said our troops gradually should leave over the next five years.
Currently, America has 28,500 troops in South Korea. South Korea’s military numbers 655,000, with 3 million reservists. They face a reported 1.9 million North Koreans in uniform, with 9.7 million reservists. Despite that size, most North Koreans, in or out of the military, reportedly suffer from malnutrition.
Eland pointed out that Korea is a
mountainous peninsula, whose passes could be defended against an invasion by South Korea if it had an adequate air force. Currently, a North Korean attack would be met with a
combined resistance of South Korean and American forces, joined by U.S. forces based in Japan, and, eventually, by U.S. forces from America and elsewhere. South Korea should be building or buying adequate warplanes for its own defense.
Another consideration is the expense of keeping U.S. troops in South Korea at a time when America’s economy continues to suffer from high unemployment and a federal deficit, according to a July 23 report by the Office of Management and Budget, projected at $1.47 trillion for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
Eland said the Pentagon doesn’t break out figures for the cost of keeping troops in South Korea, and some of the expense is paid by Seoul, but the cost is many billions. Moreover, he said, although U.S. forces are small, they exist mainly as a “tripwire” that would bring the U.S. directly into any conflict with North Korea. Such a conflict would be much more expensive, as the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven.
“Any war would cost lots of lives and money,” Eland warned. He concluded that, although the ongoing exercises serve a
purpose, “The real problem is long term. You don’t want to be doing this in five years.”
American troops have been in Korea since 1945. The Korean War cease-fire occurred in 1953, a long 57 years ago. It’s time to come home.